At the beginning of the pandemic, my 8-year-old son Toby started a podcast where he talked to friends about life during “lockdown” as he called it — what they were doing for fun, how homeschooling was going, if their parents were driving them crazy (!), and so on. He had a ton of fun but we found ourselves with a large amount of content that needed a home. So I set out to discover a free publishing platform where we could showcase the videos.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the process of discovery that I went through to pick the best platform for this project turned into a learning exercise that as a career coach I now share with clients.
Here’s why: In any return to work or career pivot, especially when confidence is low, the act of doing and building — simply getting started — can help move you out of a rut or inspire a new direction. Action equals forward movement. And in this case, building a website can help you explore new technologies, brush up on organizational and communication skills, and even nurture a side passion into a business.
And while the points below highlight the value of building a DIY website for folks in career change mode, the tips provided are universal for anyone in getting going on their first site.
1. Learn new technologies!
First, get to know the variety of website publishing platforms out there, and choose the one that works best for you. Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, Tumblr and others each feature a unique set of tools, bells and whistles, but all offer out-of-the-box options that make it easy for individuals to manage without the need for a designer or developer. (We went with Wix for this project but I host my book site on Squarespace and much of Après is hosted on WordPress.)
Even some newsletter platforms like MailChimp now offer tools to create a website, and anyone can set up on Medium and just start writing. While some may have a monthly subscription fee, there are many free options, and in some cases you don’t even need your own dedicated URL. Take some time to choose the best one for you.
Next, try your hand at creating images or adding graphic elements to your site using Canva, which really is content’s gift to the universe in my opinion. Need a website banner? Browse beautiful options already created by graphic designers for you to work with and edit to your liking. Need stock images or want to create eye-catching posts for various social media platforms? Canva has it, along with business cards, LinkedIn banners, resume templates, and yes, even website templates.
Spend some time getting to know where and how to upload video, which is a storage hog. YouTube and Vimeo of course will compress your videos to make them easier to share, or consider pulling in your Instagram feed where you can publish videos to IGTV. Wanting to podcast? Zoom’s recording function includes a separate audio file, so it’s easy to upload to podcast services like Soundcloud or just publish the audio to your site.
2. Polish your organizational, communication and writing skills!
Do you post images of your dinner prep to Instagram? Are you chronicling amazing hikes near your home on social media? Do you have a unique hobby or interest that you love telling people about? Or do you need to showcase a portfolio of work or writings and your resume? Fantastic! You’re already on the way to what your website will include. And while it’s one thing to snap a photo and write a pithy caption to upload on social media, it’s another to plan and tell a story.
Think about communication flow — what are the main categories or topics your site will communicate? How will the user of your site discover these categories? How will the information be organized?
If you plan to update the site regularly with content, i.e., a blog, find your voice. What tone will you strike in your writing? Think about your audience and use that as a guide for the kind of writing you’ll do. Hubspot recommends writing like you talk and keeping it conversational in this post on blogging tips for beginners and mistakes to avoid. Remember to write for digital consumption – mind the word count, think short paragraphs vs long, and aim for strong visuals.
A blog is a great opportunity to think strategically and creatively, all while brushing up on writing skills (critical to any good job search) and possibly fueling a passion. It can also help you get back into the groove of deadlines. Consider how often you’ll post and make a plan with an editorial calendar. Use the news and life events to drive your planning and inspire your writing!
3. Market yourself and make money!
Good content has always been King, rather Queen in my book!, and today’s tools and platforms have opportunities built in to make money. The barriers to getting going are low and don’t have to cost much, and in turn there’s potential to convert something you love into a money making opportunity: Connect a product to sell using Shopify. Monetize a newsletter. Incorporate Google ads. Host virtual workshops and events, or consider becoming an influencer.
Take Michelle Goth, who turned a part time blogging gig into a full time career at BlackberryBabe. “I just truly love to cook, and I love to share my recipes,” says Michelle. “I was already kind of that person on Instagram posting what I was doing. So it was a natural transition to start doing it on the blog and actually publishing the recipes instead of sending my friends the recipes, or trying to type them out and send them in DMs when they’d ask.”
Today Michelle has 35,000 Pinterest followers and collaborates with companies as an influencer and brand ambassador. BusinessInsider predicts brands will spend as much as $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.
Whatever your motivations, the process of building and creating something — the actual doing — is invaluable. Get going and let us know what you create!
This post is sponsored by Intellifluence, a leading influencer marketing platform, connecting brands with content creators.